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James Loney average production more pronounced lately
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com

Rays first baseman James Loney has gained a reputation for a lack of power production despite a strong average. He has done nothing to dispel that perception in recent weeks.

Loney has improved his average from .273 to .284 with 17 hits in his last 47 at-bats and four multi-hit games in the last five. But he has just two extra-base hits with no home runs since July 1 and four RBI since July 2.

He has, however, been more than serviceable this season with 47 RBI and 41 runs scored in 99 games.

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Justin Ruggiano remains sidelined by groin issue
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com

Cubs outfielder Justin Ruggiano is out of the lineup again Friday against the Cardinals, as he continues to deal with groin soreness.  

Ruggiano has not played since Tuesday, and continues to receive treatment for the injury> He is day to day at this point. 

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Pablo Sandoval maintaining productivity after break
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com

Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval has taken the momentum gained before the All-Star break and run with it.

Sandoval had nine hits in six games before the break and is 10-for-31 since despite managing just one hit in the last two games. He has both scored and driven in seven runs in the last 10 games to sweeten his stat line to .277/.327/.433.

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Walks keeping Kevin Kiermaier valuable despite mini-slump
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com

Rays surprising rookie right fielder Kevin Kiermaier has cooled off a bit with the bat lately, but his eye at the plate has made up for it.

Kiermaier has just one hit in his last eight at-bats after an 11-for-18 tear, but has five walks in the last three games as his on-base percentage remains strong at .360. His eight home runs in 170 at-bats has resulted in a fine .553 slugging percentage this season.

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Derek Jeter little more than singles hitter in swan song season
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com

One might have expected that the production of 40-year-old future Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter was destined to slip this season - and it has.

Jeter has been serviceable for the Yankees with a stat line of .270/.325/.320, numbers that pale in comparison to those he achieved even two years ago. He has just three hits in his last 17 at-bats with just one extra-base hit since July 1. He has not homered in more than a month.

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Jhonny Peralta coming on strong for St. Louis
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com

A current .256 batting average owned by Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta might not seem too impressive, but it is when considering it's at its highest point in more than two months.

Peralta has been steadily improving all his numbers. He has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games, during which time his average has soared 17 points. He has three home runs since July 3. His overall production has been decent. Peralta owns a stat line of .256/.331/.453 with 14 home runs and 44 RBI in 344 at-bats.

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Phil Hughes 'feels a responsibility' to make next start
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com

Slumping Twins right-hander Phil Hughes feels thankful that his shin wasn't broken when it took a smash off the bat of Adam Dunn on Thursday. The blow forced him out of the game after three innings.

Negative X-rays could allow him to make his next start Tuesday in Kansas City.

"[I] feel a responsbility to not miss any time," Hughes told the St. Paul Pioneer-Press.

Hughes has given up 12 earned runs on 25 hits in the last 15 innings to lower his record to 10-7 and raise his ERA to 4.10.

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Mark Appel finally shows signs of life in Class A
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com

Astros pitching prospect Mark Appel finally showed a flash of brilliance Thursday, as he worked his way through the best start of his season at Class A Lancaster.

Appel, who entered the start with a 10.80 ERA in 11 starts, tossed a season-long six innings while using just 74 pitches, according to the Houston Chronicle. Appel allowed two runs on five hits in his six innings of work while striking out a season-high seven batters in the game. Lancaster manager Rodney Liranes said it was the best outing he has seen from Appel.

"I was really, really impressed," Linares said. "He still had something in the tank to go back out, but it was just such a great outing and a good game that I wanted to stop it right there and start from there for the next time."

Appel still has a 9.74 ERA in 44 1/3 innings of work for the season, while allowing 15 hits and 1.8 home runs per nine innings. He has 40 strikeouts and 11 walks in 44 1/3 innings on the season. 

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Locked-in slider helping Joe Nathan lock in
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com

In the wake of a trade for possible replacement Joakim Soria, Tigers closer Joe Nathan managed his most impressive performance of the season Thursday night. He fanned the side against the host Angels to collect his 21st save. And he had a rediscovered slider to thank for it.

Nathan has been working on that pitch recently. That work certainly paid off in that appearance.

"That was as long as I've seen his slider, I think all year possibly," Brad Ausmus told mlbblogs.com. "It was clear that the hitters weren't picking up the rotation on his slider. It looked like a fastball to them and they swung right over the top. That's the slider I remember facing. ... You start your swing and it just drops out of the strike zone. It almost has a split-finger action to it."

Nathan has been coming around after his latest slump. He has pitched scoreless ball in his last three outings with five strikeouts and just one hit allowed in three innings. He has picked up two saves in the process.

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Jerome Williams set to get start Friday
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com

The Rangers have tabbed pitcher Jerome Williams to start Friday against the Athletics, after Nick Tepesch had to be scratched from his scheduled start.

The Rangers will purchase Williams' contract from Triple-A Round Rock prior to the start, though it is not yet clear what the corresponding roster move will be. Williams has not started in the majors since 2012, and has a 6.10 ERA in 10 1/3 innings at Round Rock this season. 

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